It was one of those nights where Marnie couldn't escape.
Usually, when she felt sad or disheartened like this, she'd curl up on her bed and talk with Seleste until the heavy feelings disappeared from her heart. And Seleste was real. Marnie felt her warmth, heard her laugh, saw her flushed face. Her friend was real, Marnie was sure of it. She held onto that fact stubbornly. But even so, the brunette could feel the memory of her friend slipping away from her mind. How warm was she? What exactly did her laugh sound like? Why does she blush so often? Where is she now? Seleste didn't come anymore, so Marnie couldn't remember, couldn't distinguish fact from fiction, couldn't figure if Seleste really existed at all.
And that truly scared her the most. Even as a little girl, Marnie always escaped reality by entering her dreams. Now that that wasn't possible, the brunette had no idea what to do to alleviate her desperation.
So she just curled up on her bed all alone, shivering from the chill of the night and from the fear that she was actually losing her mind... that she had a problem just like all the adults said. What if everything she saw was just another antic of her messed up brain? What if all the magic she encountered in her life really was fake? What if the world she so actively wanted to be a part of was nothing more than a simple illusion in her head?
But then she remembered: we'll be friends forever, idiot.
and all of a sudden, things were just a bit better.
Marnie sat up and stretched her aching muscles, glancing out her bedroom window at the clear night sky glimmering with stars. Was Seleste looking at the same sky? If so, where are you now? Why did you leave? I miss you.
Then she saw it: a familiar glimmer of silver sparkles in the distance.
"Seleste?" Marnie whispered, the name ripping itself from her throat before she could stop it. Eyes wide, the brunette got up off her bed and backed toward her chair where her sweater was folded. "S-Seleste?!"
The shimmering grew brighter, as if in response, and that was all Marnie needed. In one smooth motion, she threw her sweater on and opened the door, nearly flying down the stairs in her haste. She brushed past her mother frantically, not even realizing she was there.
"Marnie!" the older woman called out angrily, "where do you think you're going at this time of night- MARNIE! Are you listening?!"
"Seleste!" the brunette called, completely ignoring her own mother, her voice beginning to sound more urgent, "wait for me Seleste, I'm coming!" She began slipping on her sneakers before her mother roughly grabbed her by the shoulder.
"I am sick and tired of you and this non-existent Seleste girl!" she snapped, "you are not going out to find this imaginary friend IN THE DEAD OF THE NIGHT AND you will be going to Dr. Carson EVERYDAY to help you with this do you understand?!"
The words just exploded out of the older woman's mouth, but they were backed by genuine concern and fear for her daughter. She hated seeing her bright, exuberant baby girl reduced to this mess of nerves and tears. True, Marnie wasn't hers biologically but it wasn't about that. She watched this young girl grow up and she couldn't stand around and watch her deteriorate any further.
But tremulously, Marnie shrugged off her mother's arm and glared at her with tears in her eyes before saying, "you don't understand, mom."
Then she ran off into the street, screaming out Seleste's name again and again.
"No, I don't understand Mar," her mother whispered to nobody in particular before biting into her lip to compose herself. Then she turned back towards the house for the phone.
Meanwhile, Marnie ran through the streets wildly, chasing after the faint light of the silver sparkles. That was Seleste. It just had to be. Wait for me. Her footsteps echoed loudly and all she could hear were the ragged gasps of each breath she took.
"Seleste! Seleste please wait!"
The brunette ran across the street in her hurry, entering the neighborhood park. The leaves obscured the view of the starry night sky that illuminated her path, but Marnie didn't care. Her eyes only saw the silver flash that weaved in and out of the shadows, the sparkle that proved that dreams did come true. She chased relentlessly after that light, the way she always did even when she was young.
Then she finally caught up to it.
Breathing heavily, the beginnings of a small smile crept across Marnie's face. She wiped the sweat from her brow before advancing slowly towards the light hovering a mere foot away from her.
"Hey Seleste," she murmured, moving her hands to try cup the glowing sparkles between her palms, "where have you been? And you know I hate exercise.. hey, hey you can come out now..."
There was a familiar, soft pale blue glow emitting from the light and Marnie finally gave in and smiled widely. Finally, she'd see Seleste again. How long has it been? A year about? Maybe a little less or a little more? Did she age at all? Did she grow out her hair? She looked better with long hair, definitely.
There was a bright flash, and Marnie waited patiently for it to fade away. Finally. Finally, finally, finally. The nightmares were over.
Then before Marnie knew it, the breath was knocked out of her, her arm seared in burning pain, and her back cracked from the impact of crashing into the nearest tree trunk. Her eyes widened as her attacker materialized from the remnants of the glittering orb of light. It wasn't Seleste.
The creature wasn't entirely unfamiliar to her though; she saw it once in a dream when she was young. They were slightly round in shape, more spherical really, with no visible limbs, and a little tuft of fur at the top to serve as hair. This one in particular was a crimson color with a ring of flickering flames laced around its jelly-like body, to symbolize its affinity with fire. It donned a crown on its head and was almost as tall as Marnie was herself. Blinking rapidly, it focused its beady little eyes on her and puffed out its cheeks, as if it was prepared to attack.
Marnie's breath caught in her throat and she barely rolled out of the way in time to avoid the stream of fire that emitted from the beast's mouth. Some of the embers caught onto her sweater though and frantically, Marnie removed the garment from her body and tried to stomp out the flames. Her heart pounded in her ears as she thought desperately about what to do. She couldn't run away and lead this thing back to her family.. nor could she fight it head on by herself.. and she couldn't just leave it here to wreck havoc while she waited for the police. Wait, did she even have her phone? Slowly, she checked all of her pockets as the beast glared at her menacingly. No. Now what?
She took a step backward to try to put distance between herself and the monster, but the tiny movement triggered another attack. In a fury, the fiery red blob let loose another flamethrower from its mouth, scorching Marnie's forearm as she failed to duck out of the way fast enough. She fell to her knees with a bloodcurdling scream and somehow managed to scramble away from the next burst of fire.
How could she win? Even if she did manage to call the police, it's not like they could see the beast anyway. No one ever saw the things she did. They just told her she was crazy and to move on from the imaginary friends already. They didn't hear anything when she said they were real. They didn't want to hear anything they weren't used to hearing. So what made her think that they'd listen now?
She was on her own. She'd have to win using her own power.
Shakily, she got up to her feet again just as the blob puffed out its cheeks for another flamethrower. This time, she was ready and scampered off safely to the side before suffering another burn.
What could she do? How could she win? Seleste, tell me please. I need you.
And then, as if Seleste was listening, the answer suddenly came: Spirits can't stay in this world for too long without a Summoner, idiot.
Okay, Marnie didn't completely understand what a "Summoner" was, but from the word itself, it was fairly self-explanatory and she understood it enough. The fire blob was alone so that meant there was no one to summon it, which meant that it'll disappear once time was up. Marnie took another shaky breath before tensing up again. I only have to distract it until it disappears.
It seemed simple enough, in her head anyway. Real life tended to not work the same way, after all.
As if it was getting impatient, the fiery monster scowled and wiggled its body before leaping at her with incredible speed, butting its head into her stomach violently, flinging her backward with such force that Marnie was sure her back would have broke if it hit her any harder. She groaned before frantically trying to turn over and crawl away to safety, but not before the beast let loose another flamethrower, completely engulfing the brunette in fire.
Marnie bit down on her lip hard, trying her best to keep in her screams so she wouldn't attract the attention of other people. With blood streaming down her chin, bruises blooming on her limbs, and fire burning away her at her flesh, she somehow managed to roll out of the inferno and smother the flames before tremulously getting to her feet again.
How much longer? What can I do?
She slowly inched backward in her fear, completely mindful of the beast's glare. She breathed shallowly, staring back at its eyes as evenly as she could. The heel of her foot brushed against a rock and suddenly Marnie realized that she had a weapon.
Breathing in abruptly, Marnie reached down and grabbed the rock, chucking it at the monster in the same swift motion. It hit the beast right on the forehead and it reeled back from the sudden impact. The brunette took this opportunity to reach down and grab whatever she could, throwing it at the beast one after another.
Her victory was short-lived however, and the monster retaliated in a rage, letting out a flamethrower of vicious temperatures. Marnie scrambled back in her fear.